By Rakesh Bhatnagar
Most Indian’s tryst with corruption is lifelong. It’s a sordid experience that starts from the cradle and ends, if you allow me, at the cremation pyre. It’s a cradle to crematorium journey, with a birth certificate to a death notification, and in between almost at every small halt for a variety of basic needs for which the citizens have however paid a whopping tax.
According to an uncontested study by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and global corruption watchdog Transparency International, Indians had to shell out $700 million (about Rs. 3,700 crore) as bribe for land administration services alone last year. In addition, they also paid bribe ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 950 to avail basic services that form part of the right to life. It would be safe to calculate that Indian households have paid Rs. 471.8 crore as bribe last year to get ration, health, education, water and electricity supply et al, a study says.
Having found itself in the company of the most corrupt countries in the world, 64 percent Indians contacted by independent surveyors said they had bribed the police. While for land services (buying, selling, renting and inheriting property), 63 percent had to grease palms, 62 percent paid for registry and permit services.
Next is tax revenue for which, 51 percent Indians made their pockets light. The ever increasing rates of utilities such as water, telephone and electricity services, proved more costly for 47 percent respondents and for various services to avail judicial services, it was reported 45 percent doled out cash. Moreover, customs (41 percent), medical services (26 percent) and education (23 percent) together form a huge constituency of the Indians bitten hard by corruption.
These figures that demonstrate that corruption is for the people, by the government and of the system, don’t necessarily seek to get any aid from the contentious Lok Pal law. For them, the existing laws are sufficient, provided they are administered by persons who enjoy unimpeachable reputation.
It is advisable to do away with existing penal laws that provide a minimum sentence of a few months for the corrupt official. A corrupt official must get a sentence ranging between three years and life sentence as per the gravity of the offence. Sentence alone wouldn’t serve the cause, unless the cases are filed and decided within a fixed period of two years by the courts which are manned by such judges who are trained to be sensitive towards the menace of corruption and can appreciate the evidence without being biased towards an aggrieved complainant.
Until the law makers arrive at a consensus on the modalities of the national Ombudsman, the government must prove it’s bonafide and order setting up special courts, investigators and prosecutors who don’t believe in the oft repeated cynicism that “corruption is a global phenomena.”